the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: Las Vegas

My Toy Machine Gun

(no sound)

On my sixth birthday, my parents threw me a birthday party.  My extended family was invited to our apartment in Queens. It was one of the few times both sides of my family sitting in the same room at the same time. I remember little about the event except for two specific gifts that I received on that day, both which became legendary in my own mind.

The first gift was a Scrabble set. I immediately loved this board game, and quickly became obsessed with finding the best triple score words with the “X” tile.  Soon,  I was beating my mother in her own game.  I could draw a  line from that day i got the Scrabble set with my love of dictionaries, to becoming an English major in college, to wanting to write rather than go to law school.

The second memorable gift was so infamous that it became a running joke with my mother that has continued for decades.  It was a plastic toy machine gun that made realistic rat-a-tat sounds when you pressed the trigger, a gift from my aunt, the wife of my father’s youngest brother.

My aunt was blonde, gorgeous, educated, and worked as a psychiatrist.  She was the most accomplished person in the room. She was also the first non-Jew in our family, and simply unaware that I was nothing like Ralphie, dreaming of his bb gun in “A Christmas Story.”  My Jewish family from Brooklyn and the Bronx were very afraid of guns. Maybe it was a remnant of anti-Jewish pogroms back in Russia and Poland, or the Holocaust itself, but in my family, whenever you saw your neighbors with guns, you knew it was not a good sign for the Jewish people. My parents thanked my aunt for this “unique” birthday gift, but after the party, my mother hid the plastic toy gun somewhere in the house and told me that I couldn’t play with it.

Within a week, I discovered my mother’s hiding place (she naively hid it in my own closet!) but at this point, I was so into scrabble, I forgot about the gun.  Later that year, my mother threw the gun into the garbage. My fate was sealed — I was to become a man of triple score words and not a marksman. 

I thought of my toy machine gun this week because of the endless debate our country has over gun control. Three days ago, a killer brought over 30 rapid-fire guns into his hotel room at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and shot concert-goers outside his window on the 32nd Floor. No one knows the motive.

I tell the story of my toy gun because I want to come clean with my gun-owning friends in the South and the West.   I know I perfectly fit the stereotype of someone who doesn’t understand the importance of gun culture, or how your identity is intimately connected with defending your family.   What right do I have to talk about guns?  My crazy mother wouldn’t even let me use a toy gun!

But you have your own biases.  You hide behind the NRA.  Deep in your heart you know that gun violence is a sickness in America, and that it isn’t normal to walk into a hotel with thirty high-powered rifles to mow down innocent people. But you are afraid that by admitting it, people like me will want to take all your guns away, and then you will be defenseless and weak. I get that.  I’ve told you my bias and where I come from, and I’m ready to hear your side of the story.    But I want to hear from YOU, not the NRA.

What Happens in Vegas, Gets Blogged About in Vegas


Marci of LvGurl, Shana of Gorillabuns, Kim of 180/360, Andrea of Alphababy, and Elisabeth of Little Miss Mel.

Top photo taken by Sophia!  Bottom photos by Kim.   More photos taken by the talented Kim on her flickr account.

Last December, I participated in a virtual baby shower for Shana of Gorillabuns.  In my post for her, I wrote the following —

Like with most bloggers, I don’t remember how I met Gorillabuns.  Probably through Ms. Sizzle.  Blogging creates weird blogfellows.  What I like most about Shana is that she is funny.  There is nothing sexier to a man than a funny woman.  Some of the best moments with Gorillabuns did not occur on our blogs, but in emails — we’ve had some amusing discussions about subjects such as marriage, her obsession with rock bands, and especially — juicy blogger gossip.

Why do we connect to one person and not another?  Is it random?  Timing?  Or does each individual have a unique spark that you either see or you don’t?

If I were to follow the advice of pro bloggers, I would not have befriended Gorillabuns.  She is not in my “niche.”  I’m not sure I  even want my manly Citizen of the Month “brand” to be associated with a bunch of girls involved in a surprise blogger baby shower.

But, you know what — if I was practical about using blogging for career advancement, I would have missed out on the friendship and humor of Gorillabuns, who is one of the coolest people I have met online.

Sadly, Gorillabuns lost her baby, Thalon Bruce Myers, in April.

This week, a few of Gorillabuns online friends brought Shana to Las Vegas for some days of drinking and debauchery.  I thought this was a smart idea, and not inappropriate at all.    It must get tiring to have everyone tip-toe around the sad event, or, in reverse, everyone forgetting to treat Shana like a regular person.   Shana’s trip would give her an opportunity to open up a little to her special friends, while still doing what women do while visiting Las Vegas — playing blackjack, drinking lemon drops, and attracting drunk men in the casino.

Sophia and I arrived at Kim’s home on Saturday night, the night after meeting Black Hockey Jesus.  I was so excited to meet Kim, one of my long-time blogging friends.  I gave her a big hug, as I did Shana.  I could still see the sadness in Shana’s eyes, but her humor and intelligence were still intact.  She is even funnier than on her blog.   She immediately hit it off with Sophia.

After a drink, the first of many, we went to Morels French Steakhouse in the Palazzo.  I sat at the head of the table, surrounded by six sexy, well-dressed women.  I must have looked like a rock star, or someone very very very rich.  Even the waiter nodded at me and said I was very lucky to be alive.  He then handed me the wine list, figuring it was my manly duty to order the correct wine.  Talk about poor gender profiling.   I immediately handed the wine list to Kim, because my choice would have just been “the cheapest thing you have on the menu because I drink the two dollar wine from Trader Joe’s and it is fine with me.”

Later, we drove to downtown Las Vegas and ended up at some casino bar, listening to a band playing Led Zeppelin tunes.  Gorillabuns and Sophia gambled their money away at a blackjack table, and I was forced to drink way too much by Kim.  The rest of the night was a blur.  The next day, I woke up at 3PM.

I can now quit blogging because on Saturday night, I pretty much achieved — and SAW — everything I wanted to in my blogging career.

CES: Day Two

In a desperate publicity stunt to take attention away from Google, Yahoo!’s Yodelimo will drive you five feet from the monorail to the convention center entrance.

After we heard some Microsoft presenter talk and talk about technology advancing "productivity,"  we noticed that most of the crowd gathered around the X-Box games.

At CES, the world is already Asian.

My favorite booth at CES — cutesy TVs by Hannspree.

At last! We found Moxi and Sophia promptly told them what she thought about their shitty DVR interface.  I couldn’t believe it, but they actually took notes!

Sony’s AIBO robotic dog costs $3000 and has "blog capability."  I’ve already put him on my blogroll.

The one question that stuck in my mind throughout the event:  Is Yanni really any better in Hi-Def and Surround Sound?


Polk Audio’s new line of speakers offer amazing clarity and sound.  You won’t believe the power of the highs, mids, and bass coming from this attractive set… uh, excuse me, this photo is from the wrong Las Vegas convention.   She belongs in the Adult Video Expo across the hall…

Viva La iPod


I was playing Texas Hold-em Poker with Sophia and my mother when we got a little confused over what the dealer button meant.

"Go check out the ‘World Series of Poker’ I have recorded on TV," Sophia said.  "They explain it prety well."

I went to the living room to check out Sophia’s Tivo, which is not really a Tivo, but a Replay TV, but I always call it a Tivo, like some people always call a Pepsi a Coke, which must annoy the hell out of executives at Pepsico.  In fact, I sometimes go to Burger King and specifically ask for a Coke just to hear the beleaguered girl taking the order say for the thousandth time that day "We don’t have Coke.  Is Pepsi OK?"  So, yes, I do have a passive-aggressive streak.

When I got to the Tivo — I mean Replay TV, I noticed that Sophia had been taping every Texas Hold ’em show on TV. These poker shows have clearly taken over from the designing shows as the new flavor of the day.  There are poker games on Bravo, GSN, ESPN, and even the Travel Channel.  If there’s an excuse for a poker series, they’ll find one.  "Next on CSPAN:  Congressmen who love Texas Hold ’em Poker."

Now I understood why Sophia was winning every game.   At first, I thought she had just looked stupid wearing those sunglasses and that hooded sweatshirt, but now I see she was imitating the poker "masters"  — and intimidating us.

"Sophia, I’m having some trouble finding the show you wanted me to look at."

"It’s called ‘World Series of Poker."

"You have 2005, 2004, 2002, and 1998."

"Just pick any one."

I couldn’t figure out this Replay TV box.  I had to call Sophia for her assistance.

"What’s the matter with you?  You used to be so good with electronic things."

She was right.  After we started playing poker again, I lost interest.  I couldn’t stop thinking about what she said.  I quickly went "all in" and lost all my chips.   I started to head upstairs.

"Where are you going?" asked my mother.

"To the bedroom to sulk and ponder my life."

I sat on the bed and thought about the past.   At one time, people used to come to me to fix their computers.  But no more.  Now they always go to some fifteen year old cousin. 

Somewhere along the line, I lost interest in technology.  Perhaps it was the time several years ago when I started having sex on a regular basis.  Honestly, if you have a woman to play with, isn’t that enough to occupy you for the rest of your life?  Do you really need a Blackberry? 

I still use an old-fashioned CRT monitor.  My cellphone is clunky.  I do not own an iPod.  I’ve never touched an X-Box

But blogging has changed everything.   Many of my readers depend on me to keep them in touch with the latest and greatest, the hottest and the trendiest.  Some of you get all of your news from blogs, some of you are shut-ins on medication.  I have a responsibility to the community. 

So later this week, from Thursday to Sunday, rather than blabbing on about my usual mundane subjects, I will be attending The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.  This is an enormous show that takes over the city as companies showcase the coolest gadgets coming out in 2006.   And Citizen of the Month will be blogging from the show floor.  There will be other bloggers there, including many from big time blogs. But only at Citizen of the Month will you get a unique perspective — from someone who knows absolutely nothing about the subject. 

If you have any questions on what’s hot in consumer electronics, please ask me and I’ll be sure to get you a wrong answer.

Oh, by the way, I will be doing other things in Las Vegas other than attending this fascinating conference.  I will try my hand — for the very first time — playing real life Texas Hold ’em Poker.  Sophia even gave me this Hanukkah gift for me to wear at the table, so I can look like all the other professionals.   

(photo taken by Sophia on her cool, gadgety Nokia phone)

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